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Ex-player Morris adds 2nd chapter

Published Feb. 16, 1999|Updated Sep. 28, 2005

Big-leaguer-turned-author John Morris of Gulfport gives readers a glimpse inside the game he loves.

In the summer of 1995, John Morris realized he hated his job. It wasn't the work involved with being a minor-league coach in the Angels organization, or being based in Vancouver, or the hassles of travel.

What troubled Morris was the industry.

Like millions of others, the Gulfport resident had grown disgusted and disillusioned with baseball because of the previous season's labor dispute. He yearned for a simpler time, when he played the game he loved, and when he loved the game he played.

Morris decided to do something about it, and his catharsis came with a laptop computer. Morris started writing. Short stories about his early days in the game, his rise to the majors, the struggles of a part-time player. Humorous anecdotes about former teammates. Poignant personal tales, including the passing of his mother.

The words came slowly at times, and it took some effort to get them organized and edited. But eventually he had a collection of work that was the makings of a book.

"When I started the process, I thought it would be really nice to get this published someday," Morris said. "I never intended to make any money at all. I wrote it for myself so I could fall back in love with baseball.

"My love for the game had been challenged over the past couple years. I thought I could help myself and also give fans a better understanding of the game."

What Morris didn't know then was just how hard it would be for a journeyman player to get those words into print. He went through 40 some agents trying to find someone to represent him, then faced 30 rejections before Diamond Communications agreed to publish. The result is an entertaining 180 pages: "Bullet Bob' Comes to Louisville and Other Tales from a Baseball Life ($22, available at Barnes & Noble, through on-line retailers or by calling 800-480-3717).

"When you stick around for 7{ years and you hit .240, you're used to struggling your whole career," said Morris, who hit .236 for the Cardinals, Phillies and Angels. "So it wasn't like it was that big a deal when a couple publishers said no. I figured if I plowed ahead, someone would say yes."

The book provides touching glimpses into the life of a typical part-time player, as opposed to the golden life of a superstar. Morris, 37, shares details of his minor-league indoctrination and major-league debut, a funny encounter with baseball great Bob Feller, a handful of clubhouse pranks (one involving current Devil Rays broadcaster Joe Magrane) and his realization that his career was over.

"I wanted the fans to appreciate and have a better understanding of what goes on on a daily basis," Morris said. "Obviously, it's not a book about my accomplishments. If that was the case, it would be half the size."

Morris chose to offer a somewhat gentle _ if not genteel _ view of the major-league lifestyle. "I'm not mean-spirited to begin with, and I don't think fans need to hear that kind of stuff," he said. "There's enough trash being thrown around out there."

The book is the latest product of Morris' post-baseball life, which springs forth from a Gulfport condominium. He has served as a volunteer motivational speaker and consultant to college baseball teams, offering advice and helping players with goal-setting locally at Eckerd College as well as Northeast schools such as St. John's and Seton Hall, from which he holds a degree in political science. Another book is a possibility.

Morris, selected 10th overall _ five players after Dwight Gooden _ in the 1982 draft, retired as a player in 1993 after enduring three surgeries on a chronically sore back. He left the game professionally in 1996. He says he doesn't miss the daily grind, and politics.

But with another season about to start, he's ready to resume a new favorite pastime _ driving over to Tropicana Field to watch the Devil Rays. "I love sitting in the stands," he said. "I love drinking a beer and eating a hot dog. And I love pulling into the parking lot at 6:30 instead of 1:30."

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